In the seven years before Peter Chiarelli’s arrival in Edmonton, the Oilers averaged one player from an American league per draft. In the two years since he became general manager, the club has drafted four players. That spike could be misleading, American teams are providing more talent through the draft than ever, but the trend is there all the same.
PLAYERS/PLAYERS FROM USA LEAGUES DRAFTED BY YEAR
- 2016 NHL draft—211 total players, 48 from USA.
- 2015 NHL draft—211 total players, 58 from USA.
- 2014 NHL draft—210 total players, 50 from USA.
- 2013 NHL draft—211 total players, 53 from USA.
- 2012 NHL draft–211 total players, 57 from USA.
- 2011 NHL draft, 211 total players, 52 from USA.
- 2010 NHL draft 210 total players, 51 from USA.
- 2009 NHL draft, 211 total players, 53 from USA.
- 2008 NHL draft, 211 total players, 42 from USA.
- FINAL TALLY: 1,897 total players, 464 from USA
- PERCENTAGE: 24.5%
PLAYERS/PLAYERS FROM USA LEAGUES DRAFT BY THE OILERS
- 2016 NHL draft—9 total players, 2 from USA
- 2015 NHL draft—6 total players, 2 from USA
- 2014 NHL draft—6 total players, 2 from USA
- 2013 NHL draft—10 total players, 1 from USA
- 2012 NHL draft–7 total players, 2 from USA
- 2011 NHL draft–9 total players, 1 from USA
- 2010 NHL draft–11 total players, 1 from USA
- 2009 NHL draft–7 total players, 1 from USA
- 2008 NHL draft–5 total players, 0 from USA
- FINAL TALLY: 70 total players, 12 from USA
- PERCENTAGE: 17.1%
Since Chiarelli arrived, NHL teams are drafting players from American leagues at a 25.11 percent rate. In those two drafts, Edmonton is at 26.7 percent, meaning they have reached the point of being an average user of the combined USHL, NCAA, high schools et cetera.
USA PLAYERS SINCE 2008
- 2009—Troy Hesketh
- 2010—Tyler Pitlick (58 NHL games)
- 2011—Dillon Simpson (3 NHL games)
- 2012—Joey Laleggia, John McCarron
- 2013—Aidan Muir
- 2014—Zach Nagelvoort, Tyler Vesel
- 2015—Caleb Jones, John Marino
- 2016—Graham McPhee, Vincent Desharnais
USA’S BEST, 2017
- LC Casey Mittelstadt, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). High skill, quick hands, extra gear.
- L Eeli Tolvanen, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL). Plus skater, NHL shot and release.
- LC Ryan Poehling, St. Cloude State (NCAA). Big skill C with an offensive reputation.
- G Jake Oettinger, Boston University (NCAA). 30gp, 2.07 .927. Fabulous numbers.
- L Grant Mismash, USNDTP (USHL). Physical winger with some skill.
- LC Joshua Norris, USNDTP (USHL). Two-way C showing good offense.
- RC Scott Reedy, USNDTP (USHL). Center with speed, range of skills, dynamic.
- LC Shane Bowers, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). Impressive two-way C, plus skill.
- G Keith Petruzzeli, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). An actual giant goalie. Luedeke is on him.
- LC Evan Barratt, USNDTP (USHL). Small finesse center with substantial skills.
- G Maxim Zhukov, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Solid .912SP.
- LD Jack Rathbone, Dexter School (USHS). A bullet on skates, very skilled.
- LD Dylan Samberg, Hermantown High (USHS). Big (6.03, 190) mobile blue.
- LD Max Gildon, USNDTP (USHL). Size, speed, skill. Inconsistent or he would be higher.
- L Jacob Tortora, USNDTP (USHL). He is a burner and he is skilled and he is small.
- LD Clayton Phillips, Fargo Force (USHL). Undersized OD, speed, great shot. Draft and follow.
- RD Luke Martin, Michigan (NCAA). Big, mobile defender plays intelligent game. Not a lot of buzz.
- L Denis Smirnov, Penn State (NCAA). Undersized W, impressive offense.
- G Dayton Rasmussen, Chicago Steel (USHL). Impressive season. EP loves him.
- RD Reilly Walsh, Chicago Steel (USHL). Mobile puck mover, great passer and a plus shot. Some chaos.
- LD Mario Ferraro, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL). Undersized OD with real offensive potential.
- R Carson Meyer, Miami Oh (NCAA). Undersized offensive winger, good passer. 20.
- C-R Brannon McManus, Chicago Steel (USHL). Numbers impressive.
- L Neil Shea, Lawrence Academy (USHS). Good skater, he can score. Next level? Don’t know.
- LD Jack Ahcan, St. Cloud State (NCAA). Small (5.08, 183) defender is a nifty passer.
- L Michal Stinil, Springfield Jrs USHL Pr). 5.10, 182 and impressive offense at this level.
- LD Matt Anderson, Holy Family (USHS). Dynamic offensive defenseman.
- RC Isaac Johnson, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL). Tall thin, aggressive C with some skill.
- LD David Farrance, USNDTP (USHL). Great skater, good passer, shy on boxcars for OD.
- LC Patrick Khodorenko, Michigan State (NCAA). Solid two-way center.
- RD Tommy Miller, USNDTP (USHL). He is 6.02, 176, good speed, two-way defender.
- LC Noah Cates, Stillwater (USHS). Good speed, impressive HS numbers.
- LD Jesse Bjugstadt, Stillwater (USHS). Has size and some two-way skill. Sleeper.
- RD Robbie Stucker, St. Thomas (USHS). Tall, thin defender with offensive skill.
- LC Josh Wilkins, Providence College (NCAA). Solid C, 20. Has some skill, could surprise.
- LD Jakub Sirota, Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL). Good size, speed. Offensive potential.
- LD Nick Leivermann, Bloomington Thunder (USHL). Small defender, huge offensive numbers in HS.
- RC Micah Miller, Grand Rapids (USHS). Small, very skilled. Long shot.
- RD Benton Maass, Elk River (USHS). Bigger prospect, has some offense.
- LC Bram Scheerer, Edina (USHS). He has size and skill, draft and follow.
- LD Michael Anderson, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). Strong, good speed, defense.
- LC Paul Washe, Fargo Force (USHL). Two-way C, a little shy offensively.
- LD Michael Karow, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL). Good size, speed. Two-way type.
- LD Tyler Inamoto, USNDTP (USHL). He is a mobile 6.02, 196 defender. Not strong with the puck.
- RD Phil Kemp, USNDTP (USHL). Rangy blue with talent, didn’t put it together this year.
- LD Alexis Binner, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL). Big D (6.04, 209) is intriguing but hasn’t shown offense.
- G Cayden Primeau, Lincoln Stars (USHL). Highly touted goalie. .897SP.
- RC Tyce Thompson, Salisbury HS (USHS). Has two-way skills, Tage’s brother.
- RC Matt Miller, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL). Big C hasn’t shown a lot of offense this year.
- LD Kasper Kotkansalo, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL). Two-way D is talented but raw.
- LC Santeri Hartikainen, Groten School (USHS). Good size (6.01, 185), playmaker.
- G Tomas Vomacka, Corpus Christi (NAHL). .926SP. Corpus Christi? Lordy.
- LD Nate Knoepke, USNDTP (USHL). Big defender is not a mover.
- L Graham Slaggert, USNDTP (USHL). Winger with speed and some offense.
- LD Corson Green, Chicago Steel (USHL). Big, mobile defensive defender.
- G Ryan Larkin, Miami (Ohio) (NCAA). .910SP. He is 20, pro ready?
- RD Hunter Lellig, Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL). Appears to be a mobile shutdown blue.
The first time the draft began branching out to unusual leagues was 1974 (that I recall). I remember reading about Gary Sargent being chosen from Fargo-Moorhead of the Midwest Junior Hockey League, and wondering what the hell it was. Fargo was about a nine hour drive from my house, I was obsessed with hockey, and had never heard of it.
Since then, we have been on a slow but steady walk to this point in hockey history. Folks, I listed 57 names here and the USHL, USHS and college draftees could eclipse that number. It is an actual giant, and unlike the CHL leagues (by middle of the third round they have been picked clean) there are real bargains here because (up to now) these American leagues have been underrated, if not underscouted.
I ran this list a year ago and found that after about No. 10 the numbers began to run together. Graham McPhee was No. 27 on my list but could have been 35 or 17. These high schools and USHL towns are, in many ways, the new frontier for NHL teams. The league has been here awhile but the talent is flowing now and identifying that talent is going to be a key element for success.
For an NHL team like the Oilers, getting left behind is not an option. I would suggest drafting defensemen from the US National Team whenever in doubt, and putting boots on the ground and finding out the real difference between Luke Martin and Tommy Miller.
Put another way, there is a Jeff Petry, a Taylor Chorney and a Cody Wild in this draft, and from my vantage point my list here may have Wild ahead of Petry. This is a hockey league (USHL) housed in a country that videos everything, but for us the USHL is badly underexposed and the true gems cannot be seen from here.
Based on activity since Peter Chiarelli arrived as Oilers general manager, the club is putting more effort into uncovering this new frontier. Godspeed.